The Importance of Mind Over Matter
Experts are the first to admit they’re unsure why some athlete’s minds and bodies work so well together. But, what they do know is mental toughness is just as important as physical fitness. There are things athletes can to do to nurture their mental state, to bypass their consciousness to put them in a state of flow to put themselves in the zone. Getting past the self consciousness allows them to move past limitations.
What are the Markers of Mental Toughness?
It is said that mental toughness has six elements, all of which are important to a player’s success. As an athlete, exercising your mind is just as important as exercising your body.
- Flexibility: Mentally tough athletes must be able to move past the unexpected and maintain a non-defensive attitude. They make it a point to remain light hearted even when the situation isn’t what they expect, and remain flexible in finding a solution to change the outcome of the game. They must continually learn about the game, and continue to look for new ways of doing business.
- Strength: They must continue to keep going even when the odds are stacked against them. They must have the strength and resolve to keep going, even when they are losing the game. When people are watching, feelings of failure tend to be magnified, but the strength to move past them and continue is critical to the game’s finish, win or lose.
- Responsiveness: They must remain engaged and connected when under pressure. They survey the situation to find challenges, opportunities, and threats. They understand how to change their thoughts to accommodate their findings. When a coach changes the game plan at halftime, based on what he saw on the field during the first half, the player responds accordingly, without issue.
- Resilience: Athletes are not perfect; they will mess up. But what makes them mentally tough is their ability to quickly move through the mistakes and get their head back in the game. Even in the face of adversity, they remain optimistic, and are willing to make the necessary changes to improve the game. They do not dwell on the mistakes–they focus on getting the rest of the game right.
- Ethics and Courage: Mentally tough athletes will do the right thing for the team and the organization. They will not succumb to the temptation to cut corners or to throw others under the bus just to come out on top. They have the courage to do what is right, regardless of what it means for their individual game or stats.
- Sportsmanship: Game-ready leaders exhibit sportsmanship. They do not let their opponent know when they are up or down. We all experience attacks, disappointment, but the way we react to it sets the tone for the rest of sports organization. The top athletes will support their teammates, rather than competing with or attacking each other. If they do not work together and exhibit sportsmanship, it is difficult to win the game.
Final Thoughts on Mental States
Athletes will need to practice dealing with various demons: fears of losing, stress, emotional ties to the game, etc. With those things in the way, they will not be able to focus on the physical aptitude they have to get in the game and win. Handling this can be as simple as developing a pre-game routine to clear the mind. Something as simple as visualizing a player in the end zone with the football in hand, or visualizing completed passes, can help a football player focus on the mechanics of the game, rather than the potential to lose the game.
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